Thorin, son of Thrain, son of Thrór, King under the Mountain had faced many challenges in his life. Not least of all traveling across Middle Earth to reclaim his home, face a dragon, an army, and after, a horrendous (should have been life-ending) injury. But he succeeded and rebuilt Erebor in a record number of years, re-establishing it as a stronghold in the north. He had even managed to settle disputes with Elves! He thought he was done with terrible foes, but now he was faced with probably his greatest one yet – a two wheeled contraption that sat between his legs and was riding uncomfortably up his backside, something Bilbo had called a ‘bicycle’. He had been intrigued when Bilbo had it transported to Erebor on one of the caravans from the Shire but he now looked down at it with disdain.
Despite Bilbo's coaxing, Thorin refused to pick his feet up off the ground. Not that they were really helping him to balance much as he was on his tip toes with Bilbo to the side, holding onto the handlebar with one hand and the other hand firmly on Thorin's lower back. Thorin grumbled under his breath about Hobbits and their ridiculous contraptions. Bilbo merely shook his head and tutted at Thorin through his teeth. Thorin felt the beads of sweat on his forehead but didn't dare lift his hands to wipe them away. It wasn't hot outside, but the effort of trying to balance on such a wobbly thing was exhausting.
This bicycle had been in Bilbo's family for quite a number of years. It was his father's bike and a lovely shade of periwinkle. Of course, hobbit bicycles were not racing bikes or adventuring bikes. No, they were merely a casual form of travel that, while faster than walking, were not intended for use as such. It was merely for the joy of it that any Hobbit who rode a bike used it for. They were always in subtle and lovely shades of pastels, with a small basket on the front for groceries or picnics. Being a tad adventurous, Bilbo had gone quite fast down a few hills in the Shire in his younger days. But the task at hand seemed far more challenging, and maybe a little more dangerous, than those hills with the way that Thorin was glaring at the bike and at Bilbo.
Bilbo didn't know why he had suddenly sprung the idea of it on Thorin at all. While most of Bilbo's belongings had been packed and brought to Erebor on various trips, he had left the bicycle behind, forgotten in the backyard shed at Bag End. It wasn't until a few years later while telling the company about one of his childhood adventures that he had remembered the bicycle with fondness. They had never heard of such a thing, it being a Shire invention after all, so he had requested it be picked up by one of the caravans that went across middle earth roughly twice a year. And when it had arrived Bilbo had nearly wept at the sight of it. Thorin had been intrigued by it at first, but after Bilbo explained what it did and how one rode it Thorin had laughed and shook his head, clearly not interested in learning at all. But somehow, here they were.
"Thorin, it really isn't that bad. The worst thing to happen is you fall over. You won't be going that fast at all," Bilbo encouraged, a smile beaming on his face.
Thorin in the end couldn't resist that face, and despite his huffing he reluctantly agreed to whatever lesson Bilbo had in store. He had watched Bilbo ride effortlessly and it seemed easy enough.
"Wonderful! Now, the first thing to do is get your balance while standing still. Put both feet on the pedals and I will hold you upright. No worries if you wobble a little. Just lean a bit to the opposite side of the way you are wobbling. Does that make sense?"
Thorin could feel the headache beginning just in his temples. He didn't know if it was from gripping the handle bars so tightly that his knuckles were white or from the bicycle seat that may have to be surgically removed from his rear. He mostly heard Bilbo's instructions and nodded slightly.
"Don’t let go," Thorin looked Bilbo straight in the eyes, no sign of humor in his face.
"No, no. I definitely won't let go until you’re ready!" Bilbo chirped, "Now, feet up!"
Thorin took a deep breath and tentatively lifted one foot off the ground, placing it on the pedal. He already felt unsteady. Thorin lifted the other foot only slightly before putting it right back down. It took a couple of tries, but soon both of Thorin's feet were on the pedals. Even though it was a mild spring day, Thorin was sweating and could feel the back of his tunic sticking to him. He sighed and didn't dare take his face away from the front of the bike now that his feet were off the ground.
"How do you feel about it?" Bilbo eagerly awaited the answer like a puppy.
Thorin really decided that in this exact moment he didn't hate it. He started to turn his head towards Bilbo when he felt a slight wobble begin in his arms and legs. It got a little more intense and for the life of him Thorin couldn't remember which way to lean. Before he knew it and before he could put his feet down, Thorin was on the ground on his back, the bike tangled around his legs and Bilbo standing above him looking mortified.
"Oh, Thorin! I'm so sorry! I couldn't hold you up, you wobbled away from me and right out of my grip."
Angry and embarrassed Thorin pulled himself up off the ground, rebuffing Bilbo's help. He stood up and realized his elbow and hip were throbbing from the fall and how he landed. Thorin rubbed at his elbow and ignored Bilbo's concern. He walked, feeling defeated, to the back door entrance into their rooms in the mountain and slammed the door shut as he made his way inside. Luckily they had chosen to try this out in the small courtyard beside the mountain rather than outside the front gates.
Thorin was so stupid to have let Bilbo talk him into such a ridiculous endeavor. Walking suited him just fine. Bilbo had tried to convince him it was just like riding a horse. But horses had four legs and weren't prone to wobbling, Thorin thought angrily. Strong and sturdy, that was a Dwarf and that is how a Dwarf would carry himself, especially a King. Thorin stalked to their bedroom and threw himself on the bed like a teenager, careful to avoid hitting his hip or elbow. He rolled onto his side and glared at the wall. Whoever invented such an unsteady piece of metal should be ashamed to call themselves a blacksmith, he decided.
Bilbo watched Thorin's back as he stalked towards the mountain holding his elbow. Bilbo hadn't meant to drop him, but when the wobbling started rather than lean the opposite way, Thorin leaned right into the fall and nearly took Bilbo down with him. It all happened so fast and he did feel bad, but sometimes Thorin was just so prideful. Bilbo had his fair share of falls, he huffed, as he pushed the bike back up towards the mountain. Thorin would not give up so easily, Bilbo would make sure of it.
Thorin was in a sour mood for the next couple of days after the fall off the bike. He barely spoke to Bilbo and nursed his wounds like a wounded animal. By the third day, Bilbo couldn't take it anymore. Thorin huffed by him as Bilbo sat in his favorite chair reading and Bilbo had had enough. Bilbo set his book roughly on the table next to him, being careful not to hurt the table, the book, or spill the tea that was sitting there, but also with enough emphasis to make a point. Thorin paused in the doorway on his way to the suite's small kitchen and turned his head, making eye contact with a very perturbed hobbit.
"What is the matter Thorin?" Bilbo's patience was thin, "I can't believe you are still upset about the bike situation. Listen. I am sorry I made you get on the bike."
Bilbo looked down for a moment, but did not want to let Thorin off so easily, "but you owe me an apology for acting so thick-headed these past few days. I understand you are upset, but don't act like I am such a terrible person." Bilbo sighed and rubbed at his temples, leaning back into his armchair.
Thorin nodded, "I forgive you and…I’m sorry," and walked away towards the kitchen. Thorin appreciated the apology, he really did, but his ego was more bruised than anything. And more so he felt...he didn't know what he felt. Pathetic? He just felt like he had let Bilbo down. After all, Bilbo seemed so excited about the prospect of them going on adventures and picnics and Thorin didn't understand why they couldn't just walk. But he guessed it was a Hobbit way of doing things and Thorin really had wanted to understand Bilbo and his people. After all, Bilbo had chosen to leave his home and live in Erebor with Thorin. He really wanted Bilbo to feel like this was his home now, too. He stood in the kitchen for a long while before going back into the sitting room where Bilbo had resumed reading his book. He sat a plate of scones down on the table between their chairs and plopped into his arm chair, looking at Bilbo as he read. Thorin always did have trouble with words and with apologies.
"Bilbo," he said, more sternly than he had intended. Bilbo glared over the edge of his book, giving Thorin a taste of his own antics.
"Yes?" he almost sneered. Thorin looked down at this hands, how could he have let this stupid bike get in between them so easily. He needed to find a way to compromise, after all the one thing he had decided was that he would never get on that contraption again. Thorin looked up to see Bilbo waiting for him to speak.
"I. Well. I just. I wanted you to know that I won't be getting on that bike again."
Bilbo sighed, "Thorin, I wasn't going to make you get on the bike again. I just thought it would be fun."
"Right," Thorin paused, "Yes. Well..." Again, Bilbo waited, setting his book on his lap, "I didn't say I wouldn't get on a bike. I just, I believe it is in need of some modifications before I feel comfortable trying again."
"Modifications?" Bilbo looked at him, raising an eyebrow intrigued.
Thorin nodded, "I want to test them out myself though, if you don't mind. And when I find something that works, I will surely be happy to show you."
Bilbo scrunched his face then shrugged, "I look forward to it," returning to his book.
Thorin smiled. He felt like he could improve on the model, he would just need some time and some measurements, "Oh, and Bilbo?"
"Hm?" Bilbo looked up but didn't put his book down.
"Would you mind if I borrow the bike for some measurements?"
"As long as it doesn't have a scratch or a mark when returned."
Thorin nodded, "Not a scratch.”
The rest of the night went fairly uneventful, and Thorin no longer found himself grumpy, but instead found himself excited to design something so different. Working in his forge had always been his passion and hobby and to now push himself to design and make something so outside of his usual items was thrilling. He spent the rest of the night at his desk, sketching out possible designs before retiring to bed.
The next morning, before heading to his usual meetings as King, he gently rolled the bike into his forge to take measurements. He jotted them down on a scrap of paper, before rolling the bike back to their room for safety. He unwillingly left his forge to do his duty as King, the whole day wishing for the meetings to move quickly. He always looked forward to spending his evenings with Bilbo, but the idea of working on something that would eventually make his Hobbit smile was worth the time away.
He ate a quick dinner and gave Bilbo a quick kiss on the cheek before heading to the forge. He sat for a while working on ideas. It would most likely be days before he was actually working with metal. He hated to waste any materials trying to do something so large without a plan in mind. The main problem he had with the bicycle was its instability on two wheels. The idea of the stability of horses came to mind. And carts. Both able to tip over, but with much more force needed.
After some sketches, he finally settled on a design he felt would work. He was still a bit unsure, so decided on a smaller model first. He had assumed it wouldn’t take him too long, but as Thorin began, he underestimated the difference in making a sword, ring, or other trinket from trying to mold a frame made of metal rods. How heavy or light should they be? What would hold weight? Maybe the bicycle blacksmiths had been smarter than Thorin had initially given them credit for, he thought, though he still held contempt for their design. After a more experimental evening, Thorin left the forges a bit frustrated, but not about to give up.
It was late when he returned to their rooms, Bilbo already in bed reading. He bathed quickly and changed into clean clothes.
"How is it going?" Bilbo asked as Thorin climbed into bed.
"There are still some modifications to make to the design and how I will forge the metal, but I'm on the right track."
Bilbo smiled, "I'm glad to hear that.”
This routine stayed the same for days on end as Thorin was determined to finish something to his satisfaction. After building the initial model of the first design, four wheels like a cart, Thorin found moving the model clunky. It would most likely be a lot of effort to pedal and move the handlebars, yet when he watched Bilbo ride the front wheel moved easily and the pedals pushed the back wheel effortlessly. He pushed that design into the trash and pulled out a new blank sheet of paper. He still wanted four wheels but he wasn’t sure where to put the extra two. Most of his body sat towards the back of the bike where the seat was, which was where more stability was needed. He had an idea and began sketching possibilities. He played with a few other designs of the back wheels until he felt happy with the aesthetics of the design as well as the functionality.
He began working on the smaller scale model and soon had a working model that he felt was much more simple and straightforward. One night before going to bed, he bent down in front of Bilbo’s bike, which sat in the corner of the sitting room. He tested the metal bar with his fingers then tapped on the metal with his knuckles. It seemed somewhat hollow, though not intensely so.
"What do you know about the actual construction of bikes?" Thorin asked as he crawled into bed next to Bilbo.
Bilbo chewed on his lip a bit as he thought, "Honestly, not much. I never saw one made, so I couldn't explain to you the process." Bilbo gave an apologetic look.
Thorin nodded, "Not to worry, I just wanted to check before I continued with what I think will be a good process."
"Are you almost done then?"
"No, I have a small model that I'm pleased with and will begin forging the larger pieces tomorrow."
"Oh," Bilbo looked disappointed.
"Is there something wrong, ghivashel?" Thorin worried.
Bilbo shrugged, "Not necessarily. I just haven't seen you, except before bed, for weeks now. I appreciate your commitment to this project, but I had hoped it would be done soon."
Thorin took his hand, "It will be done soon, I promise. And it will be worth it for the picnics, remember?"
Bilbo sighed, "Yes, I suppose it will."
It had taken almost two months, but Thorin was finally happy with his final product. He had asked Dori to make him a seat, with much more padding and a bigger surface area. He walked around the bike as it sat in his forge.
It felt stable enough as he shook it back and forth and leaned down on it. He just worried that there was a weak spot along the seams of the metal. The metal itself was strong, but he hoped the seams held. He tentatively swung his leg over the middle bars, standing astride the bike. He lifted his butt onto the seat and settled down, feet still on the ground. He waited to hear any creaks and found none. Satisfied, he carefully put one foot on the pedal. The bike did not lean one way as it had with Bilbo's. He took a deep breath and put the other foot on the pedal. Thorin waited...and nothing, the bike held his weight and did not wobble. A huge smile crossed his face.
Now, as long as he got the pedal mechanism correct, it should move. He stood up on the pedals, testing the overall strength. He bounced a bit and the bike held. While his forge was only a small room, it seemed big enough for him to at least test the movement. He pulled it over to one corner and sat on it again, pushing the pedals and the bike moved forward. Even in the small space of his workshop he understood why Bilbo found it fun. It was an enjoyable action that wasn’t strained and one had complete control over the movement unlike riding a horse.
Thorin got off the bike and began sanding down the metal. He at first debated whether or not to paint it but once polished decided instead to keep it the silvery finish which went well with the dark blue seat and matching handle bar grips he had made from leather. He took one last look at it as he left and went back to his room. He really was so pleased with himself he felt giddy. He laughed out loud at his inventiveness and couldn't wait for Bilbo to see.
Thorin climbed into bed and cuddled up to Bilbo, trying to hide his smile but unable.
"Oh? And what's this about?" Bilbo looked down at him.
All Thorin could do was smile up at him.
"Oh! Is it done then?"
Thorin nodded enthusiastically.
"When do I get to see it?" Bilbo asked, finding Thorin's excitement contagious.
"How about this weekend?" Thorin recommended.
"So far away," Bilbo pouted.
"I doubt Balin will let me skip meetings to go on a bike ride," Thorin said ruefully.
"Yes, you're right. Alright, this weekend. I can't wait," Bilbo said, leaning down to kiss Thorin.
Thorin eagerly awaited the weekend, and soon enough it had arrived. Luck was on his side as it was a beautiful day. He had asked Bilbo to go out first with his bike as he wanted to have a big reveal. Bilbo waited in the courtyard outside of their private entrance. There was a small fountain and bench, where Bilbo sat waiting.
"Close your eyes!" Thorin’s voice called and Bilbo complied, a smirk on his face. Thorin rolled the bike out into the courtyard and placed it in front of Bilbo.
"Alright, open your eyes," Thorin said as he stood behind the bike, arms outstretched, and a huge smile on his face.
Bilbo blinked his eyes open and threw his hands over his mouth.
"You built this whole thing?" Bilbo said, shocked. He stood and walked over and then smiled again.
Thorin began to explain his process and how he had insisted on four wheels for its stability.
"So you chose to put two on the back wheel," Bilbo was still smiling.
"Yes, and it has proven itself to be a brilliant decision," Thorin beamed. Thorin got onto the bike to show the stability, waiting for Bilbo's thoughts.
"It's really wonderful Thorin, you did a great job." Bilbo bit his lip and smiled, then covered his mouth with his hand to stifle a chuckle. What Bilbo didn't feel like sharing with Thorin was that this design, with a wheel on either side of the back wheel, was considered a training bike back in the Shire. A way for young hobbits to learn to ride a bike without fear. Eventually these training wheels would be removed as the children got used to riding a bike. Luckily, Bilbo was the only Hobbit in the lonely mountain, thus no one, including Thorin, would ever know. He chuckled to himself though. Still, Bilbo had to admit he was so proud of Thorin for his commitment to this project, despite the initial hurt. He looked up and Thorin was still sitting astride it.
"Let's see you ride then," Bilbo cheered. Thorin smiled and began to pedal around the small courtyard. Thorin found it easy and enjoyable and Bilbo smiled at him. Thorin had succeeded and he felt doubly accomplished.
It became a weekend ritual for Bilbo and Thorin to ride their bikes through the fields and woods outside Erebor to picnic. Word spread about these outings and soon others began to ask about bicycles. At first it was members of the company and then other citizens of Erebor. Within a few years a bicycle shop opened in Erebor, specializing in a sturdy four wheeled version. Bilbo maintained the only true bicycle in all of Erebor. And if it made Bilbo laugh daily to see a whole mountain of dwarves riding bikes with training wheels, he never let anyone else in on his little secret.